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9/11: Ongoing Impacts A Decade After

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This week, KQED Education launched Do Now, activities for middle and high school teachers to engage students to respond to current issues through the use KQED’s award-winning online media resources and social media. For our first activity, Remembering 9/11, we focused on the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001. Join the conversation. We end this week with an explainer of this historical event.

Ten years ago, the US wasn’t fighting any foreign wars, deported half as many immigrants as it does today, and had airport security procedures that allowed passengers to spend millions of fewer hours in transit (without removing their shoes).

A lot can change in a decade. Today our troops are deeply engaged in ongoing battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Deportations of illegal immigrants have skyrocketed. And we’ve grown accustomed to long airport lines, pat-downs, and full body scans. Some of these changes have become institutionalized for so long it’s become easy to forget that things once were different.

These three transformations, among the broadest in scope, came about as a result of what happened on a single day ten years ago. The myriad changes that 9/11 ushered in, continue to affect huge portions of the population. America’s engagement in the War on Terror resulted in new attitudes towards foreigners and spurred a series of government policies like the Patriot Act, which prioritized national security at the expense of civil liberties. Many of the impacts continue to be directly felt in California, the most populous and diverse state in the country. Among them, the following three have had some of the broadest impacts.


I. The Airport
There once was a time when you could show up a half hour before your flight, never take your shoes off, and sail through the metal detector clutching a Big Gulp. In 9/11’s wake, airport security underwent a series of major overhauls. What used to be provided by private companies is now overseen by the Transportation Security Administration, a government agency created immediately after 9/11. Tasked with instituting new security procedures and managing screening at every single commercial airport checkpoint in the country, the TSA is the single largest federal startup since World War II. And anyone who’s traveled the friendly skies in the last ten years has been affected.

The additional time spent waiting in airports due to security procedures has cost the nation an estimated $8 billion a year in lost productivity since 9/11, according to Robert Poole, director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation and a member of the National Aviation Studies Advisory Panel within the Government Accountability Office told US News and World Report. Over the last ten years, security has grown increasingly tighter in response to a series of failed terrorist attempts (remember the shoe and underwear bombers?) Before the days of color-coded terrorist threats, pat downs were uncommon and passengers didn’t have to remove shoes, worry about a 3-ounce liquid limit, or get rid of any vaguely sharp objects. Ten years ago, the notion of having to go through full-body scanners, which have been installed recently in many airports, was unimaginable.

In fact, prior to 9/11, some airport security teams even allowed passengers to take box cutters aboard (the supposed weapon used by the 9/11 hijackers). Any knife with a blade up to 4 inches long was permitted, and box cutters were categorized by some airlines as “trade tools.” Lighters, as well, were banned three years ago, and around 26 million have been confiscated since tgen, according to the New York Times.

Additionally, all passengers must show a printed boarding pass with a valid government-issued form of identification, and the TSA is now authorized to use watch lists of individuals who could pose a flight safety risk. The lists are created and maintained by the government’s Terrorist Screening Center, which in 2007 had already accumulated database of over 700 thousand names, according to the Department of Justice.

II. Immigration and Deportation
In the interest of strenghthening national security and tightening America’s borders, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a cabinet-level office created in late 2002, merged 22 government agencies. Among them, Immigration and Naturalization Service and the US Customs Service, formerly part of the Department of Justice, were consolidated into the new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). With concentrated authority and emboldened by a series of federal laws streamlining the deportation process for criminals, the agency has overseen a huge increase in deportations. Nationwide, deportation have nearly doubled since 9/11.

Simply put, if you’re an immigrant, it’s a lot easier to get deported today than it was ten years ago. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, there were roughly 200,000 annual deportations a year between 1999 and 2001. While that number dropped slightly in 2002, it began to steadily climb the following year. In the first two years of the Obama Administration (2009-10), deportations hit record highs of nearly 400,000 annually. Only about half of those deported in 2009-10 were convicted of some criminal offense, and the majority were low-level offenders.

The Secure Communities program, established in 2008, allows local law enforcement to check the immigration status of every person booked in a county or local jail, even if not ultimately convicted of a crime, by comparing fingerprints against federal immigration records. There have since been numerous cases of undocumented immigrants entering deportation proceeding after being stopped for minor infractions like not using a turn signal, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association. The program has expanded from partnerships with 14 law enforcement jurisdictions in 2008 to more than 1,300 today, and it’s on track to be instituted in all jurisdictions nationwide by 2013.

The Impact in California
In 2009, Jerry Brown – then California’s Attorney agreed to implement program throughout the state. Since then, ICE reports having taken custody of almost nearly 48,000 “convicted criminal aliens” in California. Almost half of those were deported, even though only about 10,000 were convicted of offenses considered “serious or violent.”
Mexican nationals have been disproportionately impacted, with the highest rate of deportations throughout the decade; in 2008, they made up roughly 70 percent of all cases, according to a report by the Medill School at Northwestern University.

California, the primary destination for foreign nationals entering the country, is home to one in four of the nation’s immigrants. Of the nearly 10 million immigrants (both naturalized and undocumented) residing in the state, an estimated 4.3 million are Mexican immigrants, 28 percent of whom are naturalized, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

III. A Decade of War
Less than a month after 9/11, US troops retaliated by invading Afghanistan in an effort to dismantle Al-Qaeda and remove the Taliban government that were harboring them. Two years later, in March 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. Though not directly tied to the terrorist attacks, America’s invasion of Iraq was closely related to the War on Terror.

Today, the United States still finds itself deeply entangled in both conflicts. In the last decade millions of young soldiers have been deployed overseas, thousands have been killed, and many have returned with significant physical and mental injuries.
According to U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, roughly 3.1 million Americans entered military service between 2001 and 2011, and nearly 2 million have been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq. More 6,000 American troops have been killed, and roughly 44,000 wounded. Of returning service members, more than 18 percent have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, and almost 20 percent report experiencing a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during deployment.


The Impact in California
California is second only to Texas in its contribution of recruits to the U.S. military. As of 2009, the U.S. Census reported roughly 118,000 active service members from the state. Multiply that by the number of family and friends they’ve left at home, and the statewide impact becomes very significant. In 2010 alone, nearly 6,000 military recruits were from California, according to the National Priorities Project. The LA Times reports that as of Sept. 12, 2011, 665 California service members from every corner of the state have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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